Staying apart, to prevent the snowman apocalypse

Starbucks says, “When we’re together snowmen come to life.”

Because of this, we can never be together.

Because if we’re together, even for a moment, snowmen would come to life.

Snowmen coming to life would not be wondrous. It would be terrifying. It would be like the zombie apocalypse, only colder and worse, because if snowmen can come to life, there’s no reason they couldn’t use their mittened stick arms to create more snowmen — a magical army of icy golems that would lumber down the streets of town. Thumpety-thump-thump. Thumpety-thump-thump.

We can write. We can call. We can Skype. But we can never be together.

It’s better this way.

The worst Halloween ever (or, the night a girl and her mom stole my candy)

When I was 5, my parents took me trick-or-treating. It was drizzling, and I had a nasty cold, but I didn’t want to miss Halloween.

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Florida Memory/public domain

I don’t remember my costume, but I remember my bag. It was a paper, with paper-cord handles. This is important. It was a paper bag.

I got a lot of candy, but there were a few duds. One woman was giving out pieces of popcorn — loose, not bagged, just reaching in a bowl and dropping a few into the paper bag — and there was a doctor up the street who gave out pennies.

So, there I am, sick, sniffling, coughing, with a slight fever, walking down the street in a drizzling rain, and I say, “Mom, my bag feels lighter.”

She says, “Oh, you’re just getting used to the weight.”

I stop and look at my bag and say, “No, it broke!”

The bottom had dropped out of my damp paper sack, and all my candy had fallen out.

We looked up the sidewalk and there, maybe 20 feet behind us, a girl and her mother were scooping up my candy and putting it in the girl’s bag.

I looked at Mom. She looked at the girl and mother stealing my candy and sighed. “OK,” she said. “Let’s go to a few more houses, then.”

We did, but we’d already hit most of the houses on the street, and I didn’t get enough candy to make up for the candy the girl and her mother stole.

A few years ago, my parents and I were talking about the kids’ costumes and about Halloween when I was a kid — like the time our neighbor’s big black dog chased me down the street, or the many times teenagers blew up our pumpkins with M-80s — and I asked Mom why she hadn’t tried to stop the woman from taking the candy.

Mom said she knew the woman, or knew of her. I’m from a really small town in eastern Kentucky where everybody knows everybody else, including their family histories and their family’s criminal history. “That woman was mean,” my mom said.

I understood. It would be a waste of time to get into an argument with an idiot over a couple bucks worth of chocolate. I imagine she would have claimed it was hers under the widely held legal principle of “finders keepers.”

So, this Halloween I’ll carve a pumpkin (yuck) and take the kids out trick-or-treating and, because they asked, I’ll wear a costume — Indiana Jones, because I have a jacket and a hat that would work — and if I see a kid spill some candy on the sidewalk, you can bet Things 1 and 2 and I will help him pick it up.

Saying no, the right way

Walt Disney, C.V. Wood, who helped develop Disneyland, and Harrison "Buzz" Price

I learned the other day that Harrison “Buzz” Price passed away about a year ago. He was 89.

You probably don’t know the name, but Walt Disney did.

Disney dreamed up the modern theme park, but Harrison Price was a numbers man. He studied the data and told Disney where he should build it.

That’s how I met Harrison Price. I used to work in newspapers, and when I worked at the paper in Orlando, he was always gracious and patient when I called him with questions about amusement parks in general or Disney in particular.

When he was in his early 80s (and only semi-retired), he wrote a book called Walt’s Revolution: By the Numbers, about his career and what he called “rollercoaster math,” the math of the attractions business. We finally met when he came to town to promote the book, and he was even nicer in person than he had been on the phone.

Walt’s Revolution is a fascinating book, both as history and as a look at how that business operates. Of course, I’ll never try to build a theme park, but there’s one lesson in the book I’ll always remember:

Don’t say no.

Instead, say, “Yes, if….”

“Walt liked this language,” Price said in the book.

“No, because…” is the language of a deal killer. “Yes, if…” may mean the same thing, but Harrison Price called it “the approach of the deal maker.”

“Creative people thrive on ‘Yes, if,'” he said.

This is a great lesson, and it’s been a tough one to learn.

It’s usually easier to say no, but things usually turn out better when you turn it around and think it through and answer, “Yes, if….”